Ontex, a Belgian company, has become a world leader in the market for personal hygiene products and operates in three segments: incontinence, feminine care, and baby care, both through its own brands and leading retailer private labels. The company enjoys structural growth levers (ageing population, demographic growth, emergence of middle classes), and its underlying organic growth has risen to 4-6% per year. Market consolidation opportunities also provide Ontex with attractive external growth prospects, as demonstrated by the acquisition of Grupo Mabe in 2015, a deal leveraging on the company’s strong presence in Mexico and in the United States.
Add to that the company’s highly advanced environmental policies, which had already appealed to us, and its clearly defined societal positioning, with the stated objective of broadening access to personal hygiene solutions for babies, women and adults.
OBJECTIVE: TO BECOME A “GOOD EMPLOYER” BY 2018
Satisfied with these positive factors, our meeting with the company in June meant we could focus on its societal practices. While communication on these matters remains rather limited, the company undeniably pays attention to such issues. Ontex, which employs over 11,000 people, has set itself the target of becoming a “good employer” by 2018.
In many respects, the company can already claim this status. Charles Boaziz, Chairman of Ontex, has placed people at the very heart of the group’s strategy, and a Human Resources Director was recruited in 2014. As part of this structuring process, Ontex set up a Health & Safety Committee in 2016 with clear policies and objectives, notably the ongoing OHSAS 18001 certification of its plants, or the indexation of wages based on the frequency and severity of work-related injuries, etc.
Formalisation does not mean losing its entrepreneurial spirit. Ontex wishes to remain as nimble as possible.
Formalisation does not mean losing its entrepreneurial spirit. Ontex wishes to remain as nimble as possible. In this spirit, a large number of employees were asked to take part in defining new values for the group. Recognition is also a major aspect of the corporate culture, and the company regularly and formally acknowledges its teams’ successes. The cultural integration of newly-acquired entities has been successful - as the acquisition audits, the transfer of teams to local sites and employee satisfaction surveys have testified.
Furthermore, a global survey on engagement is carried out every 18 months. The most recent was held in 2016: it revealed that 85% of employees consider themselves to be “engaged” (based on a participation rate of 71%) and that 165 action plans have been set up.
ALL STAKEHOLDERS RECEIVE PARTICULAR CARE AND ATTENTION
Product quality is a priority for Ontex, as demonstrated by the ISO 9001 certification of the company’s processes: no major product recall has been recorded.
In this respect, the comprehensive coverage of cellulose supplier audits allows for a full traceability of raw materials. Cellulose is the group’s main raw material - 99% of which is sourced in North America.
Initiative is also emphasised within the group. Ontex organises an annual awards ceremony in recognition of the most responsible suppliers. This “Sustainability Award for Ontex Suppliers” also encourages the dissemination of best practices throughout the industry.
Finally, the environmental value of the products sold by the company is a priority for the Research & Development unit. Beyond the choice of raw materials - with Eco-labels ensuring the sourcing of cellulose produced from sustainably managed forests (SFI Sustainable forestry, FSC chain of custody, PEFC Chain of custody & Nordic Swan Product), the group has been working towards reducing the weight of its products and their packaging for several years: it now reports a 25% drop in weight over the past 15 years.
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